Article: What a Criminal Defense Attorney Tells His Children about… Fake IDs

Warm weather, graduations and summer vacation will soon be here, time for parties, concerts and… getting arrested for trying to obtain alcohol with phony IDs? These days both sides of The Fake ID business are booming. Underage kids are buying fake ids in greater numbers. Under stricter New York fake ID laws, the police are arresting them more often for using and possessing them. So why is law enforcement taking such a hard line with fake ids? What has changed over the years?

Fake Ids – The 1st Generation

Maybe some of you are old enough, maybe some of you remember hearing stories about the old days, when federal authorities in 1984 used the threat of cutting off highway funds to get states with legal drinking ages lower than 21 to raise them to that age. (Who remembers those mythical people who were “Grandfathered in” when the law changed?)

You may remember a time when New York State issued paper licenses and all it took was a talented friend to change that “69” to a “64”. Even when they switched to a laminated material it still wasn’t that hard to do a little artwork and have it be acceptable for the local bouncers. And the holy grail was a 21-year-old friend who gave you his license because the bouncers just wanted to see a real one.

And if it didn’t work, it wasn’t that big a deal. You’d get refused and you either tried somewhere else or called it an early night, but that was about all that happened.

New York Fake ID Laws: What to be Aware of Today

Today there are much more serious legal consequences if you’re caught with a fake ID, consequences that your children need to know about before they get themselves into a boatload of very real trouble.

I’ve seen it first hand. When I first became a prosecutor, kids were actually being arrested for forgery felonies just for having a fake ID. Imagine some poor 18 year old who purchased an ID just to be able to go out drinking at college, and is now facing felony charges. Usually, the charges were reduced to non-criminal offenses, but these teens still had to go through the horrible ordeal of thinking they’d be life-long felons.

Thankfully New York state now has the option to prosecute using a fake ID as a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which they often do, but the state still has the right to issue felony charges if they choose.

Why Are New York Fake Id Laws so Much Harsher Than in the Past?

A prime reason is that states have become more serious about dealing with the issues of underage drinking and the many related problems that accompany it.

As a result, state enforcement agencies have stepped up pressure on the heavily regulated bars and alcohol distributors. Instead of a mere refusal to serve, bar bouncers may seize a fake ID, then call the cops. To keep in good graces with the State Liquor Authority (SLA), some bar owners reportedly pay their bouncers a bounty for every fake ID they seize.

New York’s DMV also runs the year-round Operation Prevent, which teams with state and local police and the SLA to check the IDs of young drinkers not just in bars, but also at concert venues (lots of violations at Jones Beach last year) and other likely spots where underage drinkers are likely to congregate. It’s probably no coincidence New York has reported record-level numbers of seized fake IDs and arrests of underage drinkers in several recent years.

Fake IDs and Technology

Another reason for this crackdown is because fake IDs have not only become easier to get, but the design has become much more sophisticated. Bouncers are routinely duped by convincing fake international IDs, which can be purchased abroad. There are also plenty of websites in the US that sell good fake IDs for as little as $50. Websites such as IDgod even allow kids to band together to purchase the IDs in bulk to get the cost down.

Charges Your Kids Could Face If Caught With a Fake ID in New York State

As I stated above, you can be prosecuted pursuant to Section 509(6) of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. If you “possess or use any forged, fictitious or illegally obtained license, or use any license belonging to another person.” You can be fined up to $300 and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

Being charged under this statute will also get your driver’s license suspended for at least 90 days by DMV. If you choose to dispute the suspension, you will be entitled to a hearing. If you lose that hearing your license is then suspended for 12 months.

If the police decide to charge you pursuant to the New York State Penal Law, having or trying to use a fake ID can get you charged with: criminal possession of a forged instrument (a Class D felony, which can bring a sentence of between 2-1/3 and seven years in one of New York’s finest state prisons); or criminal impersonation (if you’re using someone else’s ID, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by as much as a year in jail, probation for three years, plus a fine up to $1,000).

What to Tell Your Kids about New York Fake ID Laws

The many risks a fake ID brings far outweigh whatever benefits your kids could hope to derive from getting early access to alcohol. They need to know that. Most kids aren’t thinking about consequences when they engage in this type of behavior. That’s why it’s your job to talk to them about these risks. It’s just not worth jeopardizing their school and career prospects – not to mention their freedom – for the sake of a refreshing beverage or two.

But…………..if my child was not to listen to my advice and decided to get one anyway I would give her the following guidance:

  1. See what the culture is at your college. Some college towns are happy to sell or serve to underage students. But in some college towns, you may not see the inside of a bar until you are 21.
  2. Don’t be the person who gets nailed for not knowing the information on their license.
  3. Most importantly, If stopped by the police, and asked for identification do not, and I repeat do not show or hand the police the fake ID. Sounds like common sense but when you are nervous and used to showing the fake one, it’s not that hard to slip up.